Saturday, March 28, 2009

Choosing Plant Markers

Image: "Lilting Belle" Daylily  DooHickey Plant Marker

If you have large collections of specific plants such as daylily, hosta, and iris, you may want to label each plant. Some reasons include identification during non-bloom times, ability to divide a specific variety, prevents buying duplicates, or because you are “an organized kind of person.”

Finding enduring plant markers is a gardening challenge.

*If you only mark your garden annuals, simple inexpensive markers are best. Using a stick with the empty seed packet impaled is the cheapest.

*A carpenter’s wooden shim is perfect for neatness, cost, and a couple of years endurance.  You can use a wood burning etcher or permanent ink marker for the words. Wooden markers can be composted.

For long lasting markers, the selection is determined by cost, aesthetics, if you have children or dogs, and how long you hope they will endure the elements. Here are a few of the many possibilities:

*Plastic: “T” markers last one year for me. My dogs step on them and they become brittle over winter.

*The markers made from cut mini blind slats shed the wording over winter or get lost in the clean up.

*Wood: These biodegrade too quickly vs. the work to mark a large collection.

*Metal: Zinc & copper labels on metal wire supports have a higher cost, usually last a long time, but can be bent and torn by children and pets.

*My latest try is “DoHickey” labels that hang on my homemade wire stakes.

*Professional: High grade professional markers can be custom ordered from the vendors who supply botanical gardens. They have metal frames and engraved plastic labels. They look uniform, have a long life and may be the most expensive of the marker options.

*Home-made: Fill small clay pots with cement, insert a metal stick twice the height (let dry), turned upside down and mark with the paint.

*Smooth rocks painted with names and varnished. Small cement forms (like small home-made stepping stones) with the names either written in the soft cement or use glass beads to spell out the names.

*Paint plant names on old china saucers, china/super glue on a metal rod and insert in the ground.

*Other hints:
Use pencil on zinc markers.
Indent on copper.
Livestock ear marker ink and paint pens last several years.
Plastic labels from label makers can be stuck to metal markers.
A mail order company makes customized peel and stick labels for metal markers or get your own PC program.
Support local artists doing metalworking, red ware, outsider art and other talents for individualized or personalized markers.

Fit Your Style:
You can get as expensive, showy, or as time consuming as your current gardening style and budget dictates. Gardening, in all phases, should feed your body and soul and not become a burdensome duty.

If you can look with joy at a field of wild mustard or must bend to smell the fragrance of red clover, then perhaps your life has no need for plant markers.

Marking plants or not is part of a gardening style - find yours and love it for all it's worth.

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